May 9, 1967
CHIEF JUSTICE DETHMERS: Court is now convened in special session for the presentation of a portrait of a one-time member of this Court, the Honorable GEORGE E. BUSHNELL. Speaking first, as President of the State Bar of Michigan, will be Mr. William M. Ellman.
MR. ELLMAN: May it please the Court, Mr. Chief Justice DETHMERS, members of this honorable Court, Mr. Gamble, Mr. Bonisteel, Mr. and Mrs. Bushnell, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen: When we lived in Highland Park we all held in highest esteem the Bushnell family. We went to school with their son and their daughter. Later my oldest brother served as one of Justice BUSHNELL’S clerks when he sat on this Supreme Court bench and today, as I trace the kind of fidelity of all these threads of our relationship, I feel deeply honored to be able to participate in this tribute. He was such a gentle man with compassionate insights into the minds and hearts of his fellow man. He was always so approachable, for he also had the gift of humility and could lift the hearts of those who knew him and counseled with him. Besides the gentleness of his manners, there was the benevolence of his heart and the cheerfulness of his mind. He did not need to wield his staff of authority for everywhere his words were respected and admired. To our highest court he contributed distinguished decisions so the entire profession profited by his wisdom and clear thinking, tempered with his characteristic sense of humor. Everywhere he made friends. His influence, therefore, extended far beyond his own confrere—to the Masonic Order, to the profession and clients, and all our community—when he passed on, it could honestly be said that verily he left an empty place against the sky. We all thank God for our enriching memories of him. We thank the Court and George and Polly and Betsy and Mrs. Bushnell for this opportunity to gather together to pay tribute to Dad. Knowing him was a blessing and remembering him and inspiration. With this beautiful portrait as an enduring memento we feel he is just away, but will ever remain among us. Thank you.
CHIEF JUSTICE DETHMERS: For the making of the presentation the Court will hear from the Washtenaw county bar’s longtime friend of the Bushnell family, Mr. Roscoe Bonisteel.
MR. BONISTEEL: Chief Justice, members of the Supreme Court, distinguished guests here today, judges, friends of the family, it is with regret that Mrs. Bushnell could not be here today, nor Polly, but we are indeed fortunate to have George Bushnell, Jr., and his wife Betsy here as members of the immediate family. At the request of the family of the late GEORGE EDWARD BUSHNELL I appear here today to present a portrait of the late justice to the State of Michigan through this honorable Court. The portrait was originally commissioned by the Bar of Wayne County in recognition of the contributions of Justice BUSHNELL to his profession and to the judiciary of Michigan, and with the understanding that it would be kept in the possession of Justice BUSHNELL during his lifetime and subsequently given over to this honorable Court. I feel honored to be given this privilege, resulting from a friendship of well nigh onto half a century, for personal reasons and as a contemporary in the practice of law in this State. As I sat here and I waited for the time for the call to make this presentation, my mind took me back to the day I was admitted to the courts of Michigan in this very chamber and, I might add confidentially it will be 55 years ago this coming June. In the same manner, as I sat here, I thought of the many anxious moments I experienced while waiting the call of my cases for argument before this Court. And, finally, to the day when the State Bar of Michigan was formally organized in this room, completing my work as chairman of the committee on integration of the State Bar of Michigan. I know, if you will pardon me, this is a digression for the moment, but it helps me to set up what I wish to say in the brief time at my disposal about our late Justice who took his seat on this bench in 1934, thirty-three years ago. I can clearly visualize the members of the Court then and, since then, up to now. Many great personalities have graced this bench over the years, excellent lawyers and judges who contributed greatly to our jurisprudence. It goes without saying they were all fine citizens and not the least of them was GEORGE EDWARD BUSHNELL, whom we honor today in this presentation. He served on the Michigan Supreme Court, our highest Court in Michigan, from 1934 to 1955, resigning before his term expired. In the course of research of Michigan case law we read his opinions from time to time and as you read them one quickly realizes that Justice BUSHNELL brought to his work a mature and seasoned legal mind. He carried his judicial responsibilities with dignity and a calmness few of us can emulate. His opinions disclose his understanding of human nature, of people generally, as well as his sympathetic approach to their problems. A justice-tempered-with-mercy approach. In opinions where a public question was involved he made a constructive effort to evaluate the consequences to the public and to the parties involved and applied legal principles to the facts in such a way that the decision would reflect justice based on the rules of common sense consistent with the public interest. He came to us from his native State of Virginia and he brought with him something of the aura of the Old Dominion, something of the great heritages and traditions of that Commonwealth, including an innate sense of loyalty–personal loyalty, loyalty to family, loyalty to friends, loyalty to the State and the Nation–and at no time did he hesitate to remind us of our responsibilities as citizens and our duty to respect the rights of others. His was a forward-looking mind attuned to this age. This splendid portrait will serve to remind us of one who gave of himself that law, order, justice, and humanity shall not perish but shall prevail. Justice BUSHNELL carried his torch of leadership well wherever and whenever he sought to lead. We are grateful to the Bar of Wayne County for making possible this portrait which is now formally presented to you and with it goes the sincere gratitude of Mrs. Bushnell and members of the Bushnell family to this honorable Court and to the State Bar of Michigan and to all who made possible this presentation.
Mr. Gamble, you have done honor to yourself as well as to Mr. Justice BUSHNELL. Mr. Bonisteel having stated that George E. Bushnell, Jr., and his wife are here I wonder if they would be willing to rise and permit us to recognize their presence. It is now 12 years ago–a little longer–that Mr. Justice GEORGE E. BUSHNELL left this Court. There are now surviving and living 4 persons who served on this Court as members during the time that Mr. Justice BUSHNELL also served. Retired Justice LELAND W. CARR and retired Justice EDWARD M. SHARPE I do not believe are here, although I am sure they would like to have been had circumstances permitted. And there remain on the Court two of us who served and had the pleasure of seeing Justice BUSHNELL work on this Court—Justice KELLY and I. I was asked yesterday by Mr. Justice KELLY to express to members of the Bushnell family and all others here present his extreme regret at the fact that a death in his family and a funeral today made impossible his presence here this morning. He stated that he most assuredly wanted to be here and that he had always, when on the Court with Mr. Justice BUSHNELL, felt a strong affection and admiration for him which he should have liked to evidence by presence here this morning. His absence was, of course, completely unavoidable. It was my good fortune to be on the Court 12 years–no, 9 years–from 1946 to 1955–to serve with Mr. Justice BUSHNELL in the work of this Court. And during that time he demonstrated himself to be exactly what has already been indicated in the fine presentations by Mr. Ellman and Mr. Bonisteel, a gentle man and, as well, there may be employed what is sometimes just a trite statement but it is very meaningful in this case that Justice GEORGE E. BUSHNELL was indeed a gentleman and a scholar. In his 21 years of service here I would estimate that he was author of some 700 to 800 opinions of this Court that he wrote, together with his participation in the opinions written by other members of this Court and he exhibited, indeed, scholarship, study, research and an understanding of the law and of its application to facts and, at the same time, as I believe Mr. Bonisteel said, a humaneness and a sympathy and regard for the rights, and the foibles, too, of mankind so that his administration of justice was not only an application of the law to facts but it was tempered by kindness and mercy and goodness. To those of us who still remain on the Court and who had the privilege of working with him the presence and view of this portrait will bring back happy and pleasant memories, Mr. Gamble. And I say that to members of the family and to those who made this presentation possible. The picture will serve, with others here, as an inspiration. I hope that the long continued assurances from some quarters that one day this Court will be housed in a new court building may before long come true and that there will then be adequate space for the proper hanging and placing of these many portraits and that of Mr. Justice BUSHNELL, where they may continue to afford inspiration and the reviving of pleasant memories of those who are gone to those who still are with or before the Court. Now for the State of Michigan and on behalf of this Court it is a great pleasure and honor to accept this beautiful portrait of a great man. It is directed that the minutes of this session and addresses which were presented here this morning in this special ceremony shall be spread in one of the Michigan Reports as a lasting memorial to this occasion. We thank you, Mr. Ellman and Mr. Bonisteel, for your part in making this occasion possible and, Mr. and Mrs. George Bushnell, Jr., we appreciate your presence. The Court regrets her absence but wishes to extend its kindest feelings and greetings, through you, to your mother, the wife of Justice GEORGE E. BUSHNELL.
The Court will now recess until 1:30 p.m.